Radio host Leeann Tweeden accused Sen. Al Franken of allegedly sexually assaulting her on a USO tour in 2006. Franken apologized for the incident that left her ’embarrassed and humiliated.’
UPDATE: Senator Al Franken has released a new statement apologizing to Leeann Tweeden. See below:
The first thing I want to do is apologize: to Leeann, to everyone else who was part of that tour, to everyone who has worked for me, to everyone I represent, and to everyone who counts on me to be an ally and supporter and champion of women. There’s more I want to say, but the first and more important thing — and if it’s the only thing you care to hear, that’s fine — is: I’m sorry.
I respect women. I don’t respect men who don’t. And the fact that my own actions have given people a good reason to doubt that makes me feel ashamed. But I want to say something else, too. Over the last few months, all of us — including and especially men who respect women — have been forced to take a good, hard look at our own actions and think (perhaps, shamefully, for the first time) about how those actions have affected women.
For instance, that picture. I don’t know what was in my head when I took that picture, and it doesn’t matter. There’s no excuse. I look at it now and I feel disgusted with myself. It isn’t funny. It’s completely inappropriate. It’s obvious how Leeann would feel violated by that picture. And, what’s more, I can see how millions of other women would feel violated by it — women who have had similar experiences in their own lives, women who fear having those experiences, women who look up to me, women who have counted on me.
Coming from the world of comedy, I’ve told and written a lot of jokes that I once thought were funny but later came to realize were just plain offensive. But the intentions behind my actions aren’t the point at all. It’s the impact these jokes had on others that matters. And I’m sorry it’s taken me so long to come to terms with that. While I don’t remember the rehearsal for the skit as Leeann does, I understand why we need to listen to and believe women’s experiences.
I am asking that an ethics investigation be undertaken, and I will gladly cooperate. And the truth is, what people think of me in light of this is far less important than what people think of women who continue to come forward to tell their stories. They deserve to be heard, and believed. And the y deserve to know that I am their ally and supporter. I have let them down and am committed to making it up to them.
Then, Donald Trump tweeted the following:
The Al Frankenstien picture is really bad, speaks a thousand words. Where do his hands go in pictures 2, 3, 4, 5 & 6 while she sleeps? …..
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) November 17, 2017
.And to think that just last week he was lecturing anyone who would listen about sexual harassment and respect for women. Lesley Stahl tape?
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) November 17, 2017
ORIGINAL: When she was still at the beginning of her career, Radio host, sports broadcaster, and former model Leeann Tweeden went on a USO tour to the Middle East with Senator Al Franken (then still a comedian) headlining. She claims she experienced disturbing sexual harassment and assault by Franken in two separate incidents: one, in which he allegedly forced her to kiss him during a skit, and another, in which he groped her breasts while she was asleep. There is a photo of the latter, which she shared, along with her story, in her 790 KABC radio program, McIntyre In The Morning.
Franken apologized almost immediately after Tweeden’s story was released, saying in a statement, “I certainly don’t remember the rehearsal for the skit in the same way, but I send my sincerest apologies to Leeann. As to the photo, it was clearly intended to be funny but wasn’t. I shouldn’t have done it.”
While Tweeden expected to just emcee the USO shows and introduce acts, Franken allegedly persuaded her to take part in a skit that involved them kissing. She said she was uncomfortable with the skit, and planned to turn her head away at the last minute, hoping that it would get laughs from the audience. But Tweeden claims that he “repeated that actors really need to rehearse everything and that we must practice the kiss. I said ‘OK’ so he would stop badgering me. We did the line leading up to the kiss and then he came at me, put his hand on the back of my head, mashed his lips against mine and aggressively stuck his tongue in my mouth…I felt disgusted and violated.”
— Leeann Tweeden (@LeeannTweeden) November 16, 2017
Tweeden said she didn’t tell anyone of authority at the time about what happened, because she didn’t want to draw attention to herself. “No one saw what happened backstage. I didn’t tell the Sergeant Major of the Army, who was the sponsor of the tour. I didn’t tell our USO rep what happened,” she wrote. “At the time I didn’t want to cause trouble. We were in the middle of a war zone, it was the first show of our Holiday tour, I was a professional, and I could take care of myself. I told a few of the others on the tour what Franken had done and they knew how I felt about it.”
The USO tour cast and crew flew back to Los Angeles from Afghanistan on a cargo plane on Christmas Eve that year. Tweeden was asleep for most of the trip, she said. Back home, the trip’s photographer gave her a CD of photos taken on tour. It was then that she discovered something disturbing: a photo of Franken smiling, with his hands on her breasts as she slept (see above). “I couldn’t believe it. He groped me, without my consent, while I was asleep,” she wrote. “I felt violated all over again. Embarrassed. Belittled. Humiliated. How dare anyone grab my breasts like this and think it’s funny?
“I told my husband everything that happened and showed him the picture. I wanted to shout my story to the world with a megaphone to anyone who would listen, but even as angry as I was, I was worried about the potential backlash and damage going public might have on my career as a broadcaster.” Eleven years later, Tweeden said she’s no longer afraid of speaking out.
HollywoodLifers, we’ll update you on this story as more information becomes available.